- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

Vote counters

The political battle for control of the federal government has opened up a new front: the obscure but vital state offices that determine who votes and how those votes are counted, USA Today reports.

The post of secretary of state was a backwater until 2000, when Florida’s Katherine Harris became a central figure in the presidential recount fight. Now national Democratic groups and White House prospects, unhappy about Mrs. Harris’ decisions and those of Republican Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio two years ago, are pouring resources into contests for the job, reporter Jill Lawrence said.

At least three Democratic political action committees are spotlighting secretary of state candidates, most of them in states where they expect the presidential vote to be close. Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Ohio top their lists.

Secretaries of state control most voting regulations and influence state purchases of voting machines. Looking ahead to 2008, Democrats say they want people they trust in those offices.

“There’s a growing concern about whether votes are cast and, if so, whether they’re properly counted. We have to restore people’s confidence in the system,” says Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a 2008 presidential prospect whose Heartland PAC is helping several secretary of state candidates.

Kerry’s candidates

“People who live in white houses shouldn’t throw stones,” Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, writes in a fundraising letter on behalf of three Senate candidates.

“George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove should know better, but it’s no surprise they don’t,” Mr. Kerry said. “For almost five years now, every time they’ve got their backs to the wall politically, they play ‘the fear card.’ The latest example: Dick Cheney claiming that Democratic candidates who dare to challenge the Bush White House on Iraq are ‘emboldening terrorists.’

“What’s worse, and startling, is that in Connecticut Joe Lieberman is now echoing their intolerable rhetoric attacking the Democratic Senate nominee.”

Mr. Kerry — who in 2004 failed to persuade Americans to let him live in the White House — sent the e-mail yesterday seeking contributions to support the re-election efforts of Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii, and for Ned Lamont’s Senate campaign in Connecticut.

“In Connecticut, New Jersey and Hawaii, this cynical Bush-Cheney strategy is running aground,” Mr. Kerry says, “because our stand-up candidates are exposing the failed policies, botched strategies and mind-boggling incompetence of the Bush White House that have squandered America’s treasure, kept Osama Bin Laden on the loose, and cost the lives and limbs of our brave young people.

“If the Bush administration could plan and execute the war on terror as well as it executes its shameless pre-election fear-mongering, we’d all be a lot safer. …

“There’s only one way we can win. We’ve got to help our candidates give back as good as they get.

“We’ll meet every shameless attack with more energy, every distorting ad with more passion, and every ugly appeal to fear with more determination.”

Bill’s ‘no-brainer’

Former President Bill Clinton has sided with activists who say legalized prostitution can help prevent the spread of the AIDS virus.

An international AIDS conference in Toronto this week was attended by “sex workers from 21 countries,” Joseph Hall of the Canadian Press reports.

“Recognizing prostitution as legitimate legal work, in both criminal law and labor codes, is a key step to stamping out HIV and other diseases among sex workers and the broader population,” researchers at the conference said.

However, the Bush administration — as part of its efforts to fight international sex-slavery trafficking — has banned AIDS funding to organizations that don’t officially oppose prostitution. And that’s wrong, Mr. Clinton told the conference.

“I wish they would just amend the law and say, ‘We disapprove of prostitution, but here’s the money — go save lives,’” the former president said Tuesday.

Prostitutes “are people, too,” Mr. Clinton said, “and they deserve the chance to be empowered to save their lives. To me it’s a no-brainer.”

According to a May 16 letter sent to Rep. Scott Garrett, New Jersey Republican, by the Department of Health and Human Services, HHS spent $315,000 to send 78 employees to the Toronto conference.

The tax issue

After months of being pummeled by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over his plan to raise taxes, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides called for $1.4 billion in tax cuts, mainly for middle-income Californians, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The tax breaks were the centerpiece of a broad fiscal agenda that Mr. Angelides laid out Wednesday in an effort to blunt the Republican governor’s attacks and reinvigorate his campaign, which has struggled to recover from a vicious Democratic primary. Aides said the proposal would form the campaign’s foundation for the final three months of the race.

But Mr. Angelides, the state treasurer, stood by his call for more than $5 billion in tax increases on corporations and Californians who make more than $250,000 a year. That plan, along with an array of tax-increase proposals that Mr. Angelides embraced over the years but later abandoned, has drawn ferocious criticism from Mr. Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign.

Mr. Angelides announced his tax-cut proposal in speeches to labor supporters in Hollywood and, a few hours later, San Francisco.

Ballot order

The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled yesterday that giving top billing on election ballots to the candidate whose party won the last election is unconstitutional.

Being first on the ballot is an advantage, the court ruled. It also said the rule for giving one party precedence over the other is not necessary to make ballots manageable.

Using the same logic, the court struck down the practice of alphabetizing the names of candidates within a party who are running for the same office. It sent the case back to Superior Court to work on a solution to replace the current process. It wasn’t clear how soon a new system might be in place, the Associated Press reports.

The lawsuit was filed by Democrats in a state where Republicans have long dominated elections and therefore appeared first on ballots. The court noted that Democrats last topped the ballot in 1966, based on having the most total votes statewide in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 landslide.

Democrats suggested using random drawings to determine which party’s candidate appears first on the ballot.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]washingtontimes.


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